Burnouts: Part Three
Word Count: 7.7k
Warning(s): Angst. Madara being sexy?
Atsuko Kamiyama is 19 years old with no clear direction in life. For now, she's content working at her father's comic book shop while he tours the world promoting his novel. Knee deep in the in-between, she finds herself hooking up with her best-friend, Obito, more often than she should. In a small town, there isn't much to do besides get high, host the weekly Trivia Night at the shop, and fool around.
Maybe it's a rut. But some realizations about herself and the introduction of Kakashi Hatake into her life will make sure she's not stuck running in circles for long.
Part One - Part Two - AO3
Atsuko woke with a start, the sound of the front door banging shut rattling Obito’s floor. He was positioned on the far end of the second floor, just above the main entrance on the first floor. So anytime someone came in and out of the house through that door, anyone in his room could feel it. Her eyes popped open and she sat up immediately, frowning in thought. It was Saturday morning. Everyone would be sleeping in. Save for maybe Itachi… he was an early riser. But if he was supposed to be going somewhere this morning he would have let them all know over dinner last night.
That meant it could only be one person.
Came a deep voice from downstairs. Madara. Shit. She listened for a moment more and she heard the sound of shoes creaking against the staircase at the far end of the hall. She turned towards Obito where he was sleeping on his side, facing her with a limp arm still draped across her lap. Atsuko grabbed his shoulder, shaking him awake.
“Obito… Obito! Wake up. Madara’s here.”
She hissed, trying to keep her voice low as she panicked. They’d talked about this before. One of Madara’s rules when he was gone was no boyfriends or girlfriends could stay the night. It was silly in her eyes, especially considering that Obito was 19 going on 20… but it was one of the only rules he left the boys with when he had to travel. That and keeping the house clean… that was all he asked. Right now, Obito was breaking both. His room was trashed and Atsuko was currently half dressed in his bed. This was not going to go over well.
Her friend slowly opened his eyes, squinting at the streak of sunlight peaking in between the crack of his black out curtains. His brow furrowed in offense and confusion before she repeated herself. Then, it seemed like it clicked for him. The bleariness in his eyes disappeared at the sound of footsteps outside his bedroom door. There was a knock.
“Obito. I’m coming in.”
Madara called, already turning the doorknob and sealing their fate before they’d even had a chance to formulate a plan. Atsuko could only watch in wide eyed horror as the bedroom door creaked open, vaguely aware that Obito was sitting up next to her with a similar expression. When the door did finally open, struggling a little due to a pile of clothes laying in its path, Madara Uchiha was standing in the doorway.
She’d only ever seen him once, and he’d been sitting down in the car at the time so she hadn’t understood the full magnitude of his presence. He was massive. Standing just as tall as the doorframe with a broad set of shoulders that took up even more space. His hair was dark and thick, but he had it pulled up into a wild ponytail on the back of his head. Though he still managed to make it look sleek. He was dressed business casual, a pair of dark pants hugging tightly to his thick thighs and hips, the fabric strained taught in the groin area. When she managed to pull her eyes away from that show, she noticed the fitted white button up on his top half, again strained against the muscles on his chest. The sleeves of the dress shirt were rolled up to his elbows, exposing the corded muscle and protruding veins on his forearms, hands stuffed in the pockets of those impossibly tight pants.
Her eyes finally drifted back up this face only to find him fixing them both with a soft glare, angular eyes with slight dark circles underneath narrowed in accusation. His eyebrows were sharp and his mouth was pulled into an almost disappointed frown. Despite their dire situation, Atsuko only had one thought as she took in the appearance of the much older man.
Holy fuck. That is the single hottest man I have ever seen in my life.
However, before she could begin openly drooling and panting like a dog in heat, Obito was clambering out of the bed and over her legs to stand up. He had stripped down to his boxers to sleep and Atsuko thought that he was only going to make their situation worse by stuttering out some lie. He would stumble over his words and try to convince Madara of some half truth, she was sure. Madara simply fixed the mostly naked boy with an exasperated expression, letting out a sigh through his nose as his thick arms came up to cross over his chest. He was waiting for the bullshit to spew from Obito’s mouth as well.
“Hey, pops. Didn’t know you were supposed to be back today… How was uh… where’d ya go again?”
Obito asked, the awkwardness in the room reaching a painful level. Atsuko couldn’t stop the soft groan that escaped her mouth and she buried her face in her hands. Idiot.
“Kumogakure. But that doesn’t matter right now. I didn’t tell you when I was coming back because I wanted surprise everyone. Now I see I was right to do so.”
Madara stated, and Atsuko cursed whatever horny genes Jiraiya had given her. Because the man’s voice was deep and gravelly and pure sex. She found her body reacting almost immediately. She’d joked with Obito about his grandfather being hot before, but she would take the feelings she was having at this moment to her grave out of pure shame.
“Ah, it’s not what it looks like! We just-!”
Obito scrambled to defend, but Madara was quick to cut him off.
“Oh, it’s not what it looks like? So you didn’t have a girl over behind my back? That’s not what happened?”
Madara asked, though he didn’t raise his voice. Or really seem worked up at all. He was simply stating the facts, raising an eyebrow at Obito as if he was asking the boy ‘do I look stupid to you?’.
“Young lady. Your name is Atsuko, correct?”
The older man asked, looking over Obito’s shoulder to focus on her. Though he didn’t fix her with the same disappointed glare that he’d given Obito. Just genuinely curious. Atsuko nodded quickly, fingers curling the blanket that was covering her nearly naked bottom half.
She answered, trying her best to not choke on her tongue. Outside of being hot, Madara was incredibly intimidating. Even if he wasn’t being outwardly angry or shouting. He just had this air about him. Like he was the most important man in the room at all times.
“It’s nice to meet you. Obito has told me a lot about you. Now, tell me… if you were in my position, would you believe a word out of my idiot grandson’s mouth?”
Madara introduced and quickly grilled her. Obito looked over his shoulder at Atsuko, locking eyes with her for a moment before giving her an embarrassed grin. Double idiot. She turned her attention back to Madara and carefully shook her head.
Atsuko replied honestly, causing Obito to deflate a little, shoulders slumping as his head dropped forward. Madara hummed, low in his throat and focused back on his grandson.
“See. Even your little girlfriend knows better than to try and lie to me.”
Madara pointed out, but Atsuko jumped in quickly at that comment.
“I’m not his girlfriend.”
She clarified, the words bubbling up and out of her chest before she could think better of it. Madara’s eyes turned back to her, but slightly more confused this time. Then they dipped to where Obito’s shirt was hanging low on her shoulders and a blush rose to her cheeks as one of her hands came up to cover the hickey he’d left the night before. Ah. Shit.
Obito sighed, massaging the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger.
“Ah. Right. Not my girlfriend. Listen, I’m sorry for breaking the rules… Can I at least show her out before you tear into me?”
He asked, sounding more mature in his disappointment. Madara gave the couple one more look over before giving a curt nod and stepping away from the door and heading back down the hallway, calling after Shisui as he did so and likely going to knock on the younger boys door as well. Obito quickly moved to close the door, making a point to turn the lock before turning back to look at where she sat on the bed. Atsuko gave him a nervous smile but he only let out a soft groan.
“Why did you have to tell him you weren’t my girlfriend? Now he’s gonna be even more pissed.”
Obito sighed, pulling away from the door to start digging through the piles of clothes for something to pull on. He was still in his navy blue boxers, naked from the waist up and hairy legs on display. Atsuko’s brow furrowed at that, standing on her own to begin gathering her clothes as well. But it was a little hard to tell what was hers and what was his at this point.
“What do you mean? Why does it matter?”
Atsuko questioned, finding her jeans from the day before crumpled up in a corner. She pulled them on, having to dance and shimmy a little to get the form fitting denim over her hips and thighs.
“He’s kind of a… traditionalist? I’m not sure. The idea of people having sex outside of marriage just runs all over him. If you’d at least let him believe you were my girlfriend he might have been a little more understanding. But now he’s gonna think…”
Obito trailed off, and Atsuko could tell this wasn’t just about Madara. If sex outside of marriage was the issue, wouldn’t he still be upset if they were only dating? Instead of addressing the elephant in the room, Atsuko opted for making a joke.
“That you’re a whore?”
She replied, smirking at his bare back while he also slipped on a pair of jeans. He turned to look at her over his shoulder, returning her soft smile before letting out a deep exhale and turning to cross the room to her. These moments… where he would tower over her and fix her with that sweet smile… they were becoming increasingly troublesome. Because the closer her got, the more she wanted to reach up and cup his jaw in her hands. Run her thumbs under his dark eyes. Kiss him without the preamble of weed or the prospect of sex.
Obito hovered in her personal space, her head forced back to keep eye contact with him. His dark hair stuck up in all directions, wild and untamable despite her attempts to style it in the past. Sharp eyebrows relaxed and dark eyes half lidded as he peered down at her. All back lit by the tiny streaks of light that peaked into his dusty room from gaps between the black out curtains. The air in the room was getting too thick and she could hear the faint whisperings of some Rex Orange County song playing from Shisui’s room as he got ready. Her fingers twitched with the need to complete the moment. To reach up and touch him like she’d wanted…
But she fought the urge, instead opting to pat his bare chest once, tearing her eyes away from his to focus on gathering her things. Barely able to catch the warm smile leave his face in her peripheral.
“Well, good luck with that. I’m gonna go shower and find something to eat. If you don’t die, maybe we can go for a ride later.”
Atsuko suggested, trying to break the tension in the best way she knew how. Talking. There was a moment of silence before Obito let out a soft ‘yeah’ and continued to dress himself. She threw her overnight bag over her shoulder and stuffed her phone in her pocket as he waited for her by the door. True to his word, when she was ready, he opened the door for her and followed her downstairs. She was passing the kitchen when she heard some kind of commotion.
“I’m not going to some stupid camp! Why can’t I just stay here by myself? It’s only a week!”
Sasuke shouted, all of that pre-teen angst coming through in his voice. She frowned softly, not sure why any sign of distress from the boy tugged at her heartstrings. But it always did.
“Sasuke… you cannot stay home alone for a week. For one, you’re just not old enough. Something could happen and no one would be around to help. And two, it would be incredibly irresponsible on my part.”
Madara tried to reason, surprisingly calm in the face of the young boys shouting. He was such an intimidating man, she didn’t think he’d be one to tolerate any kind of outbursts. Before they crossed the doorway passing the kitchen and towards the front door, Atsuko stopped in her tracks, Obito crashing into her back with a huff.
“What the hell?”
He hissed, but she brought a finger up to her mouth to shush him. She wanted to hear what was happening. She and Obito had planned to go to Suna for the upcoming Spring Break. It was set to be a week long bender on the beach and they’d both been looking forward to it for quite some time… She also knew Itachi was going to some kind of music camp for the week… but she’d just assumed Shisui would be staying home so there would be someone to watch after Sasuke. But apparently not.
“Besides, I think you would have a really good time at camp. Obito went when he was your age. Shisui loved it so much he’s going back this year to be a counselor! He’ll be there too so you won’t be alone. It’ll be good for you to get out and make some new friends.”
Madara tried to encourage, tone falling more serious at the end. Like this was non-negotiable. Sasuke groaned, his comeback ready and waiting.
“Shisui’s only going because the stupid girl he likes is going! I have plenty of friends already and I don’t want to go stay in some hot ass cabin for a week with a bunch of other annoying assholes!”
Sasuke retorted, drawing a sigh from his grandfather. She could almost imagine him rubbing the bridge of his nose the same way Obito had earlier.
“Language, Sasuke… listen, there’s really no other option. You can’t stay here because I have to leave tomorrow afternoon for another business trip. I’ll be gone for a month this time. And there’s really nowhere else you can go…”
Madara stated, giving him the facts of the situation. There wasn’t a way around it.
“I’m supposed to hang out with Naruto and everyone that week. Do my plans not matter?”
Sasuke huffed, and the genuine sadness in his voice caused Atsuko to frown. Naruto and Sasuke were close… Closer than any other 12 year old boys she’d known. In fact, she and Obito had placed bets on when the two would announce they were dating. It was cute. Naruto was loud and a little obnoxious, but in an endearing way. And he brought Sasuke out of his pouty shell more often than not. Most of the time, the boys went every where together. Again, the youngest Uchiha tugged at her heartstrings in the just the right way and she stepped forward into the kitchen with an awkward wave.
“Uh… hi, I couldn’t help but overhear…”
She started, drawing the attention of the three people in the kitchen. Shisui was standing at the large marble island, doubled over a bowl of cereal. His eyes widened as he looked at her, spoon mid-air as he raised it to his open mouth. Sasuke was sitting at one of the stools pulled up to the island as well, his eyebrows still furrowed in anger with a pout on his face. Then there was Madara, standing on the other side of the island from Sasuke, those massive arms still crossed over his chest as he leaned back against the counter behind him. He’d quirked an eyebrow at her sudden presence, but no one moved to stop her. Except Obito. He was gently tugging at the back of her shirt, whispering ‘What are you doing?’ under his breath as he tried to get her to leave without causing any more problems.
“Sorry it’s just… I heard the conversation and uh… Mr. Uchiha, if Sasuke doesn’t want to go to camp, I wouldn’t mind watching him for the week.”
Atsuko offered, nervously clasping her hands together in front of her. Again, Obito was hissing out questions behind her. ‘Atsuko, what about Suna?’ and a variation of other things. But she reached back to smack at where his hands had gripped her shirt, a silent cue for him to shut up and leave it alone. There was another silence in the room as Madara turned to look at Sasuke. The youngest boys eyes had lit up and he was staring up at his grandfather with barely concealed hope. When the older man’s eyes landed back on her, there was a silent question in the air. Why? You’re not Obito’s girlfriend, so why?
“It’s just ah… when I was a kid my dad shipped me off somewhere for a while and I really resented him for a while because of that. I’m not saying Sasuke would resent you or anything! It’s just a week after all and my situation was different but… I don’t know. I relate. And my dad he owns the comic book shop here in town so-“
Atsuko rambled, and Madara cut in during the middle of her sentence.
“Jiraiya. Yes, I’m aware.”
He stated, and she nodded before continuing.
“Right. I work there and Sasuke and his friends come in all the time. And I’m sure you know I spend a lot of time with Obito so… we’re friends, right Sasuke?”
Atusko encouraged, looking at the young boy for his cue to agree. It wasn’t a lie. She helped him with his homework and took him and Itachi to school in the mornings. Sometimes they would hang out and play video games when she was just hanging around the house. They shared music recommendations too, surprisingly enough. It would be a breeze to hang out with him for a week.
“Yeah! Atsuko’s really cool. We hang out all the time. She can definitely watch me.”
Sasuke replied enthusiastically. A little too enthusiastically for his personality, but it seemed to convince Madara nonetheless that Sasuke would be comfortable staying with her. Or with her staying here.
“I was under the impression you were going with Obito to Suna for the break.”
Madara pointed out, and Atsuko looked over her shoulder at her friend. Obito gave her a look that said ‘yeah, dumbass, did ya forget?’ but she opted to ignore it, turning her attention back to Madara.
“Well, that was the plan. But, honestly, I’m not really the ‘beach’ type… I’m sure Obito can find someone else to tag along? We can work that out between us.”
Atsuko answered, trying her best to wiggle out of the situation without giving any definitives. She could feel Obito glaring daggers into the back of her head. But she didn’t care about that in the moment. She really did relate to Sasuke’s plight and she really didn’t want him to be uncomfortable or miserable for a week. Madara still seemed skeptical, so she took another careful step into the kitchen.
“Mr. Uchiha, I know we’ve never spoken before but.. I’ve spent the last year around your boys and we’ve all grown close. I wouldn’t offer to do this if I didn’t want to. And Sasuke would be completely safe with me. I don’t do much so… he could spend his afternoons with me at the shop and he could either come stay with me at Jiraiya’s or I could stay here. It’s no issue.”
Atsuko tried to assuage any concerns he had, gesturing with her hands a lot due to the nerve wracking situation. Suddenly, Shisui picked his head up from where he was gorging himself on Frosted Flakes.
“Vouch. Atsuko’s cool.”
He barked out, mouth full of soggy sugar. She gave him an appreciative nod and turned her attention back to Madara. He took a moment to gather his thoughts, looking between Atsuko and Sasuke with a scrutinizing expression.
“And there’s no way I’m convincing you to go to camp? Even if I say it’s enriching for your character and that some time in the sun would do you good?”
Madara asked the young boy, Sasuke shook his head immediately.
“Not a chance in hell.”
Sasuke replied, drawing another soft sigh from Madara.
“Fine. Ms Atsuko, if you’re willing to watch Sasuke for the upcoming week I would be very grateful… You can stay here if you’d like. I’ll leave some money for groceries and your time.”
Madara conceded, pulling a genuine smile from her. She nodded in agreement, bowing her head.
“Of course. I’m sure we’ll have fun. I’ll even make him get out in the sun a little.”
She stated, chuckling at Sasuke’s huff of annoyance. After that, Madara laid out a couple ground rules for her and let her know she needed to be back Monday morning when everyone was set to depart for their respective trips. After that, she finally excused herself to leave, Obito following hot on her heels despite having remained silent for the entirety of the transaction. Once she’d cleared the front door, he followed her onto the porch as well, shutting the large door behind him a little roughly.
“What the hell was that, Atsuko? We’ve been planning this trip for months and you drop out the weekend before just because Sasuke was throwing a fit?”
Obito hissed, frustration clear in the way he raised his voice, jamming a thumb back over his shoulder towards the house.
“I’m sorry, Obito. But I never really wanted to go on that trip anyway-“
Atsuko started, trying to defend her position, but he was cutting her off.
“Never wanted to go? You just said you were excited about it last week!”
He pointed out, and she groaned, dropping her head back in defeat.
“I was excited for you! You wanted to go and have a good time and I didn’t want to be a downer, so I agreed. Besides, look at this way, now you can go with no attachments! You don’t have to worry about me. Just party. Have a good time and hook up with some random girls. It’ll be fun.”
Atsuko tried to assuage, an awkward hand coming up to shove his shoulder lightly. It was supposed to be playful, teasing. But his head was dropped forward, staring at the ground with a pained expression. Her shove just caused his body sway a little and he gave no outward reaction. It was silent for a moment before he spoke up.
“But I didn’t want to do any of that. I wanted to go with you.”
Obito replied, the dejection in his voice damn near enough to break her heart. She sighed, running her fingers back through her hair. Maybe it was for the best they’d be spending some time apart. He was getting too attached. And she was starting to feel the stirrings of something more than what she wanted as well.
“Maybe… some time apart will be good for us, yeah? And it’s not like you’ll be alone. Dei and the others are going too, right? You can tell me all about it when you get back.”
Atsuko encouraged, again fighting the urge to reach out and comfort him physically. There was another pause as she gnawed on her bottom lip, waiting for what he’d say. Eventually, he picked his head up with a sigh.
“Yeah. Just… just go home. I’ll text you later.”
Obito said, his eyes falling tired again as he turned away from her, giving her no time to respond before retreating back into the house and slamming the door in her face.
Atsuko drove back home in complete silence. Too nervous to even turn on the radio or hook her phone up to the bluetooth. She gnawed at her bottom lip until it cracked and bled a little, hissing to herself when her teeth grazed the newly tender spot. That was not at all how she expected the morning to go. Not only was Obito likely being chewed out for breaking one of Madara’s rules because of her, but now he was upset with her. It wasn’t a betrayal to back out on the trip if she didn’t want to go… So why did it feel like it was?
She filtered between guilt and self assurance like those viewing glasses at the eye doctor. One, Obito was overreacting and it was likely because he’d started to develop romantic feelings for her. She was putting up boundaries and that was a healthy thing to do if she wasn’t comfortable. Or two, she’d ditched her best friend selfishly and with no regard to his feelings because she couldn’t figure out what she wanted. One or two? One or two? But they both looked the same.
When she finally pulled into the driveway of the house she didn’t frequent often, she sat in the parked car for a moment more. Eventually, she decided to just leave it behind. She’d made her decision. And the commitment to watch Sasuke was much more important than a silly vacation. So, she pulled herself from the car and packed her belongings inside. Today was her day off and she was going to try her best to enjoy it.
Upon entering the house she completed a number of menial chores. Starting a load of laundry, collecting a few dishes from her room from the last night she’d stayed there and starting the dishwasher. Just as she was about to step into the shower, her phone dinged from it’s place on the bathroom counter. When she went to check the messages she realized she hadn’t even had time to check it this morning. There were three unread texts.
Kakashi. Gai’s Friend. From the Comic Shop: ‘That’s good to hear. Ya know, when I asked about you, Gai said you had something going on with Obito and I was just wondering… is it serious?’ (1:43 am)
Kakashi. Gai’s Friend. From the Comic Shop: ‘Hey, I’m sorry if I said something out of line last night. I didn’t mean to pry or anything. It’s really none of my business.’ (10:37 am)
Atsuko groaned when she read the message, the undeniable butterflies in her stomach competing for space with the uneasy guilt. Like a drunk boxing match. That brought on another onslaught of self doubt. Why did she feel guilty? Her situation-ship with Obito wasn’t serious. She’d been very clear about that from the beginning. And the way things were looking now… Her fingers were moving across the screen before she could question her motives.
Me: ‘Hey. No, you didn’t say anything out of line. I just fell asleep and I’ve had a hell of a morning, so I’m sorry for not replying. My situation with Obito is… complicated. But I meant it when I said I’d like to see you again.’
She replied, swiping away from the sent message before she could over analyze what she’d done. Then she was moving on to the next unopened text.
Tenzo: ‘Hey, Atsuko. I misplaced my key… where’s the spare again?’
And again, she let out another groan, eyes flipping up to the clock on her phone. 11:16am. The shop would open in 45 minutes. Which meant she had 30 minutes to shower and leave the house, 15 to drive to the shop and meet Tenzo.
Me: ‘I brought it home with me a couple nights ago by accident… I’ll meet you at the shop.’
She replied, quickly discarding her phone on the bathroom counter so she could resume her shower. It would be quicker than she wanted, but it was better than nothing. Jiraiya had given Tenzo the part time position several years ago when he’d started dating his mother, Tsunade. But even before they’d started dating, Atsuko had grown up with Tenzo. Jiraiya and Tsunade had been close friends since grade school, along with Uncle Orochimaru. Because none of them had ever moved away Konoha, they all stayed close friends well into adulthood and had children of their own all around the same time.
Tsunade had married a man named Don after meeting him in college. They’d had Tenzo, but when the boy was only 6 months old, Don had died in a horrible car wreck. A couple months after Tenzo was born, Atsuko was born. Her mother, Akari, had died during childbirth, leaving Jiraiya to raise her all on his own. Then Orochimaru had his daughter, Anko. Though his marriage to her mother dissolved quickly afterwards and the woman eventually abandoned her husband and her daughter.
From what little Jiraiya had told her about that time in their lives, it had been difficult for everyone. They’d all settled down and had been ready to live the rest of their lives in domestic bliss with the people they loved (though Atsuko often wondered if Orochimaru was capable of romantic love) only for them to be ripped away from them. Not to mention it had left them to care for newborns on their own with no help. So, they became each others help. Babysitting for one another and learning the basics of child care together through trial and error. The way Jiraiya made it sound, they were one step away from buying one massive house together and starting some sort of communal living situation.
Either way, it ensured that Tenzo, Anko, and Atsuko had all grown up ‘thick as thieves’ as Tsunade would say. She was an only child, but it had never felt that way. Currently, Tsunade was the principal at Konoha’s local High School and Orochimaru was a fairly famous lawyer. It fit both of their personalities pretty well, Atsuko thought. Tsunade was the tough love, motherly, type. She didn’t tolerate bullshit, but she knew when to use a softer touch. Orochimaru was a little sleazy and eccentric, but brilliant in his own right. He never turned down a case, Jiraiya had once told her.
Anko had moved away to follow in her father’s footsteps, getting accepted to one of the most prestigious law school programs in the nation. Tenzo was also in college, but he was studying botany. He’d discovered his green thumb in middle school and had never looked back. They were both set to be successful adults with promising careers.
Then, there was Atsuko.
Sent to a boarding school at the age of thirteen because Jiraiya couldn’t ‘handle her outbursts’ anymore. Granted, she’d been unruly at best. A delinquent at the worst. And the boarding school had helped her straighten some things out… She’d been sent to a therapist upon her arrival for a psychological evaluation. The diagnosis and subsequent medication she’d been placed on had really saved her life. But she still resented him for sending her there in the first place. If he’d just listened to her more often or taken her to a therapist himself, she might not have had to spend four years at that school. Though, she wasn’t sure where she would have rather been.
Now, she wasn’t sure what direction her life was supposed to go in. All she’d ever wanted to be was happy… so, she figured she’d just keep chasing that feeling. If a simple life made her happy, then there was no need to dedicate herself to a larger cause or a career. She could just exist and live and find her fulfillment in every day experiences. And just as she’d thought with Obito, she wondered if that was just an excuse to be lazy.
When she arrived at the comic shop, hair still dripping wet and darkening the back of her white t-shirt, Tenzo was standing outside the front door. The man who would soon be her step-brother was tall. Taller than most guys she knew. And he was built much like the trees he loved to study. Solid and sturdy with a broad set of shoulders and toned muscles. He picked his head up from where he was looking at his phone and gave her a soft nod as he slipped the object into his jeans pocket. Atsuko waved back, digging around in her pockets for the spare key as she drew closer.
“Sorry, Atsuko. I have no idea where I left my key.”
Tenzo stated as she stepped up onto the little landing outside the front door. The reason they had so much space in the shop was because Jiraiya had been insistent on purchasing a stand alone building when he’d opened the shop. He didn’t want it to be some dusty store front in a strip mall plaza. It was his ‘passion project’ so it had to have a dedicated space. It was more expensive, but in the long run, it was a better investment.
“It’s alright. I was just in the middle of showering, so ya know, no big deal. There’s totally not water running down my back as we speak.”
Atsuko retorted sarcastically, chuckling when Tenzo gave her an apologetic smile and ran his fingers through his light brown hair. He was a good guy. Always had been. When they were kids, he was always the voice of reason. Talking her and Anko down from some stupid stunt before they even had a chance to plan. Then, when he got older, he spent all of his free time in his garden. He grew vegetables and sold them at the Farmer’s Market on Sunday mornings. He wasn’t as harsh or masculine as a lot of the men she’d known, and she chalked it up to being raised by a single mother. But, genuinely, he was probably one of the best people she knew. Well rounded and honest. Hardworking and reliable. So, she couldn’t find it in her heart to be mad that he’d misplaced his key. He’d find it.
When they entered the shop, Tenzo immediately went to work turning on all of the lights and clocking in for his shift. Atsuko followed him inside for a moment, just to help out and catch up since she was already out. After fifteen minutes of preparing in silence, the shop was open for business. Immediately, Tenzo placed his laptop on the glass top, pulling up the stools behind the counter and getting ready to crack into some school work. Saturday’s were usually pretty slow.
“So, mom said you’re going to Suna for the break?”
Tenzo questioned, making small talk as he clicked around on the laptop, peeking up over the screen at her. Atsuko sighed, leaning against the counter and shaking her head.
“No, I’m not going now… You would not believe the morning I’ve had.”
She started, groaning softly as the memories came flooding back. Obito’s betrayed face. Ugh.
“If it had to do with Obito, I’ll believe anything.”
Tenzo snarked, smirking at her from behind the screen. It pulled a soft chuckle from her, but her heart wasn’t in it. Tenzo didn’t really care for her ‘relationship’ with Obito. The problem wasn’t Obito himself. It was the friends with benefits situation that didn’t make sense to him. In his eyes, they should had made it official a long time ago. Because this situation would just ‘end in a shit show’ .
Atsuko didn’t agree. And even if she did, the instant gratification she was getting from her set up with Obito was just too great to ignore. If it did end in a shit show, then it would have been worth it for all the no-strings-attached fun they’d had.
Either way, she’d been confiding in Tenzo since they were children. So, she launched into the story of her morning. Starting with Madara showing up unannounced and ending with Obito slamming the door in her face. By the end, Tenzo wasn’t looking at his laptop anymore. Instead, he was listening intently, a sour look on his face.
He hissed through his teeth, clicking his tongue against the roof of his mouth. Atsuko nodded in agreement, dropping her head to her hands.
“I don’t know what to do from here. It’s not like we’ve ever had a fight. There’s never been a reason for one…”
Atsuko replied, sagging against the counter top. They weren’t dating, but that didn’t mean she was okay with her friend being mad at her. And, honestly, it felt weird when he wasn’t around now. The small amounts of time they spent apart were starting to make her feel… disconnected? Like she was in intermission. Just waiting for the next time she’d see Obito. Then it was like all of the lights coming on at once. Every switch in her brain flipping into position. She knew they needed to spend some time apart, but the sick feeling in her stomach reminded her of the internal conflict. She’d be seasick until she set foot on dry land again.
“Ya know, I feel like this is exactly the kind of thing I said would happen…”
Tenzo started, but Atsuko was quick to cut him off, shaking her head.
“Nope. The last thing I need right now is an ‘I told you so’. I don’t care about the way you think things should be. Especially not when it comes to my friendships. Just tell me how to fix it.”
She sighed, turning her wide eyes up to look at him in desperation. It didn’t matter if Tenzo thought her and Obito’s relationship was ‘unhealthy’ or ‘co-dependent’. She just needed him to give her an idea on how to make things right.
“Fine. If you’re so dead set on hurting yourself, I won’t tell you what I really think. I guess if you want to make it right, you should just apologize. Give him a gift or something.”
Tenzo suggested with a shrug, turning back to his laptop. It was a simple answer and she supposed it was the only real option. She couldn’t back out on watching Sasuke now, so taking it back and going with Obito was out of the question. All she could do was tell him she was sorry and hope he forgave her.
With that, she said her goodbyes to Tenzo and left the shop, intent on making things right.
The rest of the day she spent running personal errands and collecting items to prepare for her apology to Obito. First stop was the grocery to pick up some toiletries for her stay at the Uchiha house. Then to clean her car out and prepare for the plans she had that evening. The final stop was Obito’s favorite restaurant. It was an Italian place about a 20 minute drive away from town and she’d called ahead their order. About an hour beforehand she’d sent Obito a single, cryptic, text.
Me: ‘Hey. I’m gonna make this up to you. Can I pick you up at 7?’
Whore-ito: ‘I guess… It’s gonna have to be pretty big though.’
He’d replied at the time, causing Atsuko to smile down at her phone in anticipation. Oh, he had no idea.
After she’d gotten everything ready, Atsuko pulled into the driveway at the Uchiha house at 7pm on the dot. It wasn’t even necessary for her to send him a text, he was ready to go, exiting the front door with his head down and his hands stuffed into his the pockets of his baggy black jeans. An oversized Pink Floyd t-shirt clung to his lithe frame and she noticed he had the same black beanie on as yesterday. She watched him for a moment as he descended the stairs from the porch, finally turning his head up to look at the sky for a second. The golden light during this time of day illuminating him in a way that made Atsuko’s heart stutter in her chest. She sucked in a short breath, forcing her eyes away from him as he neared the car, gently rapping his knuckles against her window in greeting before rounding the vehicle to get into the passenger seat.
When he pulled the passenger door open, the hinges on the old metal door creaking loudly, he stopped for a moment before climbing in because his seat was occupied. Sitting in the passenger seat was a small blue gift bag, large enough to hold a couple small items. Obito stared at it for a moment before sighing and grabbing the bag, holding it as he folded himself into the vehicle. Atsuko turned in her seat excitedly, grinning at him as he stared down at the issue paper.
“Go on, open it!”
She encouraged, pulling her leg up in the seat as she turned to face him. He was wearing a skeptical expression and he hadn’t said a word since getting in the car, but she figured he’d accept her apology any way. His dark eyes flicked over to her, narrowing the slightest bit as she chuckled, shoving his shoulder lightly. With that, he finally smiled a little before beginning to pull the white tissue paper from the bag.
The first gift he pulled out was a box of condoms. Immediately, he fixed her with an unimpressed scowl, but Atsuko put her hands up in defense.
“Hey! Don’t look at me like that. Those are for the makeup sex we’re gonna have later.”
She stated, pulling a chuckle from him as he set the box of condoms down on his thigh. When he reached back into the bag this time, he came out with a half pint of his drink of choice, some expensive whiskey that he never had the money to buy. He gave her a judging look
“I know it’s expensive… but there’s more.”
Atsuko goaded, tapping the paper bag gently. Obito looked at her for a moment more before turning back to the bag and pulling out the other item’s she’d bought for him. A couple of them were silly thing. Little trinkets from some dollar store and packs of gum and candy she knew he liked. But at the bottom of the bag sat the most important gift of all.
It was small, velvet, drawstring baggie. Obito’s nose wrinkled in confusion, still having not said a word since he’d gotten in the car. But, he pried open the bag with a curiosity she’d never seen in him before. When he pulled out what was inside, he held it up between them in the palm of his hand. Nestle there, was a braided, black, leather bracelet. It was simply enough, but the part that stuck out was a pendant tied in the middle. A gold colored sun. Obito looked up at her again in question and she quickly raised her right arm, rolling the sleeve of her flannel up reveal her wrist. She was wearing the same bracelet, except hers pendant was a silver colored moon.
“I know it’s silly, but I just figured… well, we can still get those tattoo’s if you want. But, this was more immediate. And I thought you’d like em. Is it too mushy?”
Atsuko asked, stuttering over her words as Obito’s eyes flicked between her wrist and the bracelet in his hand. There was another, long, beat of silence in the car. Then, Obito was reaching for her with his free hand, gripping her jaw between his thumb and fingers, pulling her forward to close the liminal space between them. Atsuko moved easily, taking no more coaxing. Though, she did notice that as soon as their lips touched, the guitar intro on Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here kicked on, playing softly through the car radio. A chill ran up her spine, and she was grasping him immediately, hand fisting the fabric on the front of his hoodie.
The kiss was unlike any they’d shared before. His grip on her chin was almost desperate, hot fingers tips pressing into the muscles there to coax her to open her mouth. Atsuko did so gladly, unable to do anything but comply when he moved closer to her in the car, flipping up the arm rest so he could slide across the bench seat with ease. Obito had her crowded against the driver side window, the hand on her jaw eventually moving to press against her hip. The way his lips were moving against hers, tongue delving into her mouth… it made her light headed. It felt like he was pouring every thing he had into the kiss. Like it might be his last kiss ever.
When he finally pulled away, Atsuko gasped for air, and she slowly opened her eyes, only to find him still seated happily in her personal space, staring down at her with a look she couldn’t read. She gave him a shaky smile, releasing the death grip on his hoodie.
“So… you like the bracelet?”
Atsuko asked, drawing a laugh from Obito as he dropped that intense expression in favor of smiling and scooting back to his side of the vehicle.
“I love the bracelet. And everything else. Thank you, Atsuko… it really wasn’t necessary. But thank you.”
He answered, causing her to readjust in her seat with a dramatic gasp.
“Of course it was necessary! You’re my best friend, Obito. I don’t ever want you to be upset with me and what I did was really inconsiderate… And the gifts don’t stop there! I got your favorite Italian food for dinner. We are going to star gaze and enjoy our meal.”
Atsuko replied, grinning as she threw the car in reverse to pull out of his driveway. She was so delighted by his acceptance of her apology, she didn’t notice the way his smile faltered. Or hear the words he mumbled under his breath.
“Yeah… best friend.”
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Under the Mistletoe with the Akatsuki // Part Nine // Pein (Nagato)
Leader. Never in a million years did Nagato Uzumaki believe he had it in him for be a leader, and especially not one of a group of S-ranked criminals like the ones that comprised his Akatsuki. But perhaps he really wasn’t; after all, save for Konan, none of them had even met him before. All they knew about him was Pein, the body that he animated and controlled through his chakra. Yet despite all he and his group have accomplished, the nagging feeling never leaves him ... that Yahiko would have done a much better job than Nagato. It’s one of the main reasons that Nagato fashioned his main Pein-body after his old friend; to try and infuse some of Yahiko’s wisdom and charisma into his own leadership style. One of the things Yahiko often stressed was the importance of having people around you that you could trust, and depend on. In short - friends. Aside from Konan, Nagato doesn’t truly consider anyone in this organization to be his ‘friend’ ... rather, he’s come to think of the group as a whole of being his family. And apparently families played games with each other, hence why he (as Pein) agrees to this mistletoe game now.
“Good evening, Leader.” Kisame was by far one of the more desirable members that Nagato had strived to bring into his group. Mature, experienced with battle and ninjutsu, and one of the fabled Seven Swordsmen of the Mist. In any given situation, in any conflict between members of the group, Kisame will most often be the voice of reason. Nagato chose to pair him with the young but mature beyond his years Itachi, believing they’d have much to learn from one another, and he was correct. Out of all the duos, theirs was probably the most stable (and certainly the least problematic). Despite being both tall and intimidating, the half-shark had a surprisingly gentle, almost shy nature to him when one caught him in a one on one situation, as was the case now. Kisame walks up to Pein but seems unable to take the initiative, so Pein does so himself. He puts one hand on Kisame’s shoulder, leans up slightly, and kisses his cheek. Kisame blushes and grins, before going back to his room for the evening.
Unbeknownst to the others, aside from Konan, Sasori is the only member of the Akatsuki that knows that Pein isn’t who (or what) he presents himself to be. After all, spending years hidden inside a puppet body gave one a little leeway into seeing into (or perhaps seeing past) others’ true selves. But Sasori understands Nagato’s need to conceal his real body; in fact, he’s even helped him a few times. He’s travelled with Konan before to meet the actual Nagato, when the latter came down with an illness that Konan wasn’t sure how to treat. Sasori used his extensive knowledge of medical procedures to help Nagato, and since then, the two had become good friends. He also gave him valuable advice (again from his own experience of using chakra to control multiple puppets at once) to Nagato in how to more effectively maneuver his Six Paths of Pein bodies during battle, even helping Nagato to tweak them to better control their movements. Sasori shows Nagato (and ultimately, Pein) the same respect that he would a fellow master puppeteer. He approaches Pein now, in his own body. Pein leans down and kisses his cheek, and the two nod at each other before Sasori returns to his own room.
“He murdered his entire clan in one evening.” “Are you sure?” “Well, all but his younger brother. But I’m sure if he ever got the chance —“ Nagato still remembers the conversation he had with Konan, the day before they brought Itachi into the Akatsuki. Nagato had been against it at first, believing that one who could commit such callous atrocities against his own clan and family would no doubt have trouble turning against a group of people that were strangers to him. But Itachi pleasantly surprised Nagato, with how calm, and quiet, and kind he was. He often forgets how young Itachi is, considering he speaks and acts like a man decades older. But still ... there was a sadness that could be felt whenever Itachi was in the room, tangible even to someone who’s “real” body was quite far away, like Nagato’s was. When Itachi comes to him, the Pein body reaches out and pulls the boy into a hug. Itachi seems surprised, but whether out of respect to the leader or because he truly needed it, he lets the embrace happen. The two stand there for longer than seems feasible, until Pein breaks it by gently kissing Itachi’s forehead. Itachi steps back, gives Pein a smile (which turns back the clock even more and makes Itachi seem like a child) and goes back to his room.
Nagato felt real, valid concern when bringing the 15 year old Deidara into his group. Besides being the youngest, besides having that volatile temper and wanton pleasure in causing chaos and destruction ... the kid was beautiful. An odd word for a male, perhaps, but it was the most fitting term for him. In the Akatsuki it was more or less made clear that Konan was off-limits in terms of things like that, but Deidara ... with his long silky hair, big blue eyes, soft skin ... what was to stop one (or possibly ALL) of these older (and likely stronger) members from attempting to — but Nagato was lucky, in that everyone exhibited more self-control than he gave them credit for. And pairing him first with the older Sasori and then with the wily Tobi had seemed to be good choices, as well. One taught him maturity, and the other, patience. Although sometimes — “Oi, Leader ... can you talk to Kakuzu for me?” “For what?” “He won’t let me have an advance on my pay, because he says I’m just going to waste it on ‘my stupid clay’, hm!” “I do not interfere with the financial decisions of my treasurer, Deidara.” “But —“ Pein kisses his forehead and says, quietly, “Learn to exercise restraint when it comes to your artistic endeavors, Deidara.” Deidara grumbles as he walks away, and Pein smiles and shakes his head as he watches him go.
“Pein. No matter what Deidara said to you, you won’t convince me to give him an advance on his pay. That boy is already three weeks into his money, and our budget simply won’t allow —“ “Do not fear, Kakuzu. I don’t intend to step on your toes regarding our finances.” Never in Nagato’s life has he met anybody quite so concerned with money as Kakuzu. He was strict not only with his own money, but every other member’s, as well. While Nagato found this to be a character flaw at first, now, he saw Kakuzu’s thriftiness and frugal tendencies as being a God-send. It was only because of him that they were able to move from hideout to hideout, to put food on the table, to buy clothes and weapons and any number of things that the group needed to survive. But his finance-savvy ways weren’t even the most impressive thing about him; it was the fact that he dealt with Hidan, day in and day out, and had not been driven to madness. The older man walks up to Pein now, lowers his mask, and delivers a light kiss to the cheek. Pein nods and watches as he leaves, noting, as he often did, his cold Kakuzu’s skin is. Nagato can feel it through Pein’s sensors; standing close to Kakuzu is much like standing in front of an open grave. He often felt that he should suggest redesigning Kakuzu’s Akatsuki robe to make it warmer, but Nagato knows that this suggestion would be rapidly rejected.
On the day that it is Pein’s turn under the mistletoe, Zetsu is nowhere to be found. Nagato knows where he is, of course; traveling through the earth at the speed of sound, going to scout out an enemy territory before the Akatsuki makes a move on it. Zetsu and his infiltration skills have helped Nagato countless times in the past, providing valuable intel on targets and mapping out the most problem-free routes for the rest of the group to take on missions. Still, though; there’s something about the plant-man that gave Nagato the slighter touch of unease. Being near Zetsu, even through the barrier of Pein, gave Nagato the feeling of being inches away from a wild animal. Hearing him speak was like listening to a dog that suddenly begins speaking in a human tongue. Nagato is very glad that Pein does not have to kiss this individual, and in fact hopes that his turn will end before Zetsu makes his inevitable return.
Tobi, Tobi, Tobi ... such a confusing young man. Such a surprising young man. Many months ago, the Pein-body walked into Tobi’s room to retrieve him for something, and happened to catch him sleeping. Nagato was curious and made his artificial body approach the side of the bed that Tobi’s face was on ... but all Nagato was met with was darkness. A solid, blurred-out black where the boy’s face should have been. Nagato thought that perhaps something was malfunctioning in the Pein body’s ocular region ... but everything else was clear as a bell. Did Tobi have some kind of exterior defense mechanism set into place that would bar Pein, specifically Pein, from seeing his actual face? And if that was the case, then WHY? What exactly was he hiding?? It made Nagato nervous, but he never let this on to Tobi. “Pein-sama, Pein-sama! Is it Tobi’s turn for a kissy?!” Pein nods and Tobi approaches him, slides his mask halfway off ... and again all Pein can make out is blackness. He can feel his cheek being kissed, but his vision doesn’t return to 100% until Tobi’s mask is fully back in place. “Thanks, Pein-sama!”, Tobi says; and is it Nagato’s imagination or is there a touch of smugness to his voice? Well, regardless, the kid is leaving, and a Nagato can put him out of his mind once more.
“I’ve had to kiss every single one of you fucks, including the old geezer and the orange idiot. Now I’ve gotta slobber with the boss too?? What’s next; are we are jumping into bed and having a group fuck?!” Nagato hadn’t rolled his eyes in many years (and rolling Pein’s eyes would have been an unbecoming gesture for a leader), but hearing Hidan speak always made Nagato want to break this self-imposed rule. With his additional bodies, his Rinnegan, his seemingly unlimited chakra and his fabled Uzumaki clan endurance, Nagato considers himself to be an earthbound God. But then this kid, this foul-mouthed violent crusader, comes into the group speaking about HIS God, Lord Jashin, and flaunting his (admittedly enviable) gift of immortality. From the very beginning, Hidan made it clear that offering sacrifices to his God was his main priority; and the kid wasn’t lying. It’s always been Pein’s (Nagato’s) mandate that as long as one completed their assigned mission, then they would be free to do as the my liked in their spare time. But Hidan’s preferred “hobby” left even someone as war-weary and hardened as Nagato feeling a bit queasy, in the pit of his stomach. “Come, Hidan.” Hidan visibly balks at being given an order; but he’s never love hesitated to obey the Leader. He goes to Pein and, after Pein studies his face, receives a kiss on the nose. The gesture is so light and whimsical that it leaves Hidan blushing and flustered, as evidenced by his leaving without uttering a single swear word.
The kiss between Konan and Pein is ... disappointingly short. Surprising, considering how close the two of them are, and how much Pein seems to care about her. But it’s a very quick forehead peck, and then both Pein and Konan retire to their rooms. The Pein-body shuts down in his own room, but Konan is getting dressed. It’s a somewhat lengthy journey, especially for this time of night, but one Konan is very familiar with. She comes every single day, after all, after everyone else is asleep or preoccupied for the evening. The old cave is so far into the woods, and from the outside seems abandoned, but ... “Nagato? I’m here.” Nagato turns his head and, although he’s happy to see her, can’t help but sigh. “You’re soaking wet.” Konan uses her cloak to wipe her face, telling him it’s not a big deal, just a little drizzle outside... but it is to Nagato. Trapped like this, a prisoner of his body and his hatred and pain ... anybody else would have walked out and left him years ago. But Konan, no matter what, she stayed by his side, and showed him more caring and comfort than Nagato felt he deserved. “I brought you some beef and curry rice tonight,” Konan said, now uncovering a small bowl. “It’s still warm.” She moves into position to feed him, and as she does, she quietly tells him little tidbits about her day. It’s solely through Konan that Nagato has any sense of the outside world at all, or any REAL idea about what the members of the Akatsuki are actually like. And he’s grateful to her. He’s grateful to her for so many — “Konan?” She looks up from where she’d been tidying up. “Yes?” “I’m so sorry.” She stops and looks at him, head tilted. “Sorry? What are you sorry about?” “I’m sorry that you’re not married, I’m sorry that you don’t have children, or a family, I’m sorry that you go from hideout to hideout and village to village and all you see is the same pain we saw when we were kids. And I’m sorry that things are only this way because of me. I couldn’t save Yahiko, and I’m destroying you, and any chance at happiness you could have had. I never meant for things to be this way. I’m —“ but Konan’s arms are around him before he can finish his sentence. “You’re a goddamn idiot,” she mumbles, her voice slightly shaky. “Yahiko dying wasn’t your fault, and my life — my life is full, and despite what you may believe, I’m happy, Nagato. This Akatsuki you’ve created; you’ve done two things. You’re fulfilling Yahiko’s dream, and you’ve given me, US, a family. So stop with this nonsense, okay?” “But I —“, and Konan interrupts him again, this time with a soft kiss on the cheek. Her lips breathe warmth and comfort into his chilled skin. “You’re the most important person on this earth to me, and I love you,” she murmurs as she pulls away, a smile on her face. “But I swear if you don’t cheer up, you’re not getting any of this dessert I made.” A pause, and then, with a smirk reminiscent of the shy boy he once was, “I’ll only cheer up if it’s something I like.” “Strawberry pie.” Nagato gives Konan an even bigger smile, to which she replies “That’s better”; and the two laugh. He feels like a weight has been lifted off of his heart. After dessert, he tries to mentally prepare himself for her leaving again ...but to his surprise she pulls a blanket from her satchel spreading it out neatly along the ground. “You’re staying tonight?” “I’m staying.” “Good. I love you, too, by the way.” “I know.” Before bed she spends a good deal of time gently brushing out his hair, telling him jokes and stories, the same that she used to do with him and Yahiko when they were all children, during those many long, cold nights when hunger or anxiety kept them awake. Neither is present now, but the goodness of the feeling remains the same. After awhile they both fall asleep, and for once their dreams are calm and peaceful.
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